Born in a barn in 1909, Leo Fender seems an unlikely father of rock ’n’ roll. But as the man whose company perfected the solid-body electric guitar, his contribution to contemporary music cannot be overstated. Just take a look at the albums whose musicians thought enough of their Fender guitar to put it on the cover: Eric Clapton’s "Layla," Bruce Springsteen’s "Born To Run," Jeff Beck’s "Wired," The Pretenders’s (Chrissie Hynde) "Get Close," Bonnie Raitt’s "Nick of Time." The list of influential artists who play a Fender is just about endless.

Fender’s first solid-body electric guitar was introduced in 1950. It debuted as the one-pickup Esquire before the name of the two-pickup model was changed to Broadcaster. But Gretsch was already using the name Broadkaster on some of its instruments, so the name was changed again.

Between names, the company made the most of its remaining Fender Broadcaster decals by cutting off the word Broadcaster so that only the Fender brand made it onto the guitar’s headstock. Today, collectors call these guitars Nocasters. Only about 60 Nocasters were made, which makes them extremely collectible, but by April of 1951 the guitar would finally get a name that would stick, the Telecaster.

The Stratocaster came next in 1954. Unlike the Telecaster, whose ash body was outlined with rib-digging 45-degree edges, the Strat had a sculpted body that fit players like a glove. Three pickups gave the instrument unprecedented tonal range, as did a vibrato bar that would bend the guitar’s strings when pressed. And instead of the Telecaster’s blond, natural-wood finish, the Strat was offered in a number of colors, including the iconic sunburst (golden-yellow in the middle fading to black on the outside).

Solid-body electric bass guitars were also a Fender innovation. The Precision bass was introduced in 1951. It had a headstock that was virtually identical to that of the Telecaster and a body that turned out to be a preview of the 1954 Strat. By 1957, the Precision’s headstock had been redesigned to mirror the Stratocaster’s, and that version of the bass remains largely unchanged today. The Jazz Bass was added to the low-octave lineup in 1960, and a six-string bass was offered in 1961.

Fender launched two other major guitar lines in the 1950s. The first of these was a pair of low-cost models, the Duo-Sonic and the Musicmaster, both of which were introduced in 1956. These guitars were for kids who wanted to learn how to play without having to shell out the big bucks for a Stratocaster ($274.50 for a Strat versus $119.50 for a Musicmaster). The other initiative was a high-end guitar called the Jazzmaster, which retailed at the time for $329.50. It had a rosewood fingerboard on the standard maple neck, and switches that let the guitarist bounce between rhythm and lead sounds.

In 1962, Fender introduced the Jaguar, which combined a Jazzmaster body with a Stratocaster head. The Mustang, an update of the Duo-Sonic, was added in 1964. Years later, Nirvana...

But the 1960s are best known as the decade when Jimi Hendrix did things to his Stratocaster that nobody had thought possible, from setting it on fire to playing wailing, psychedelic versions of "The Star-Spangled Banner." Alas for Fender, it was also the decade that the company was sold to CBS—for Fender purists, the years 1965 to 1985 are like a 20-year musical drought.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Vintage Guitars Info

Vintage Guitars Info

This great reference site features detailed sections on vintage guitar makers, including Gibson, Fender, Martin, Gr… [read review or visit site]

Vintage Guitar and Bass

Vintage Guitar and Bass

Want to see all the old brochures and ads for your favorite vintage axe? Check out this great site, which showcases… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Vintage Blackface Fender 1960s1966 Fender Mustang Very Clean All Original No Reserve Price Vintage Guitar1964 Fender Vibroverb Blackface Vintage AmplifierFender Stratocaster Pickup And CoverVintage 1956 Fender Stratocaster Guitar Sunburst #93822 W/ Hard Case1969 Blackie Strat Stratocaster Fender 69 Vintage Electric Guitar & Case1973 Fender Stratocaster Electric Guitar Excellent Condition Olympic WhiteVintage 1971 Fender Stratocaster Guitar In Sparkle GreenFender Custom Shop Stratocaster 1957 Heavy Relic W/ Virgil Arlo Strat PickupsFender Custom Shop Custom Deluxe StratocasterFender Custom Shop 1956 Stratocaster John Cruz Masterbuilt Relic No Reserve1979 Fender 25th Anniversary Stratocaster W/ohsc All Original Nice Shape! Wow!!!2015 Fender Custom Shop 1963 Sunburst Stratocaster Relic - No Reserve Auction!'68 Telecaster Relic Butterscotch Blonde Thin Skin Nitro Fender Bigsby DimarzioFender Stratocaster Left Handed 1976 A Sunburst Beauty!!Fender American Deluxe Ash Telecaster - Butterscotch Blonde 2014Fender Avri 62 Stratocaster Shoreline Gold W/ Case & Candy!'69 Telecaster Relic Butterscotch Natural Swamp Ash Fender Pure Vintage Hardware1978 Fender Stratocaster AntiguaFender Precision Bass 1973 VintageUsed Fender American Elite Telecaster Tele Butterscotch Blonde Noiseless PickupsFender American Professional JaguarRare! Fender Usa 60th Anniversary Stratocaster Mint! W/matching Case.Fender Artist Eric Clapton Stratocaster Maple Fretboard Olympic White 2015Fender American Pro Stratocaster Olive Electric Guitar - With Hard She'll CaseFender Classic '65 Mustang Electric Guitar2007 Fender Joe Strummer Telecaster Mint W/complete Stencils & StickersFender American Vintage 56' StratocasterFender American Standard Precision Bass Guitar 2007.Fender Eric Clapton Stratocaster "blackie" With Case And Eric Clapton PedalFender American Standard Olympic White 2015 Precision Bass Guitar W/ Ohsc UsaFender American Standard Telecaster 3-color Sunburst No Reserve!!!2016 Fender American Standard Telecaster Ohsc, Immaculate. Natural.Fender Usa Jazz Bass 4 String Electric Bass W/hard Shell CaseG & L Bass Guitar Usa Made By Leo Fender Model Sb-2Fender 1998 Telecaster UsaFender Squier Venus 12 String GuitarFender Pawn Shop '72 - Surf GreenFender Roland Ready Midi Stratocaster Electric GuitarFender American 50th Anniversary Stratocaster1988 - 1989 Fender Telecaster American Made W/ Hard Case, Made In Usa, CoronaFender Usa Stratocaster Rh Electric Guitar1997 Cream White Yellow Fender TelecasterFender Precision Bass Lyte Deluxe Japan Mij Very Clean Original Active W/ CaseFender Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster Electric GuitarWow Fender Telecaster 1980s Amazing Clean Condition #j037048 Electric GuitarUsed 1996 Fender American Standard Stratocaster: 50th Anniversary Edition Black2015 Mexican Surf Green Fender Jazzmaster Fender Stratocaster American Usa 2005 Blue Extras High End CaseFender Telecaster American Standard Made In Usa With Case And Dimarzio Pickups!2016 Fender American Special Stratocaster Electric Guitar Sunburst Made In Usa2015 Fender Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster Olympic White Maple Fingerboard Mexico04 Fender Mim Deluxe Nashville Power Telecaster W/ Fishman Power Bridge W/hscFender Stratocaster American Black 2001Fender 2011 Usa Rosewood American Stevie Ray Vaughan Stratocaster Neck2011 Fender Classic Player Jazzmaster Sunburst No ReserveFender Precision Bass Special In Blizzard Pearl!Fender Deluxe Nashville TelecasterFender Usa Stratocaster Custom Shop Mary Kay Finish Callaham Bridge Case No NeckFender Deluxe Active Electric Bass Guitar, Soft Case, Free Shipping